As a series of international conferences consider the challenge of growing plastic production, economic factors are not favouring the recycling sector.
Nymex-listed crude oil prices were quoted at US$ 90 per bbl in mid-October and that fed hopes of an upward trend in prime plastics. But the oil price fell back to US$ 80 per bbl within three weeks, leaving little hope for any improvement in the cost of prime plastic this year.
The European plastics industry is at a turning point with large investments committed to address that plastic waste which is difficult to recycle and is not currently being processed by mechanical recyclers. The petrochemical industry makes huge profits. In 2022, the six largest petrochemical conglomerates earned over US$ 200 billion.
They have earmarked substantial funds for investment in chemical recycling of plastic waste which should facilitate a shift in the extent plastic is currently going for energy recovery or landfill rather than recycling.
In the coming years, we expect a huge demand from these plants for prepared feedstock. The Netherlands alone will need over one million tonnes of plastic scrap for chemical recycling plants.
Meanwhile, several important upcoming events could have a serious impact on the future of plastic recycling. In November, they include the UN Plastic Treaty conference in Nairobi, the Alliance to End Plastic conference in New York, the Sustainability conference in Amsterdam, and the Circular conference in Wuppertal.
In December, there will be COP-28 and the Sustainable Material Initiative, founded by King Charles, in Dubai.